Around the Big Ten: Football - Week 1
Mitch Broder, Chris Hess and David Saggio preview Week 1 of college football in the Big Ten:
The first week of college football is finally upon us with the crisp feel of fall becoming all the more noticeable in the morning air. Big Ten students across the nation are back in class, gearing up for the first tailgate of the year. Their respective teams look to start the season off strong with victories over typically overmatched opponents. Could we see a stunning upset in Week 1 of the college football season? Possibly, but not likely, as most Big Ten programs will walk away this week with perfect records still intact.
Idaho at Penn State
This one should be an easy victory for the Nittany Lions, who are 40-point favorites to open up the season with a victory in front of their home crowd on Saturday. That is a massive number to lay, especially with almost all new starters at the skill positions. Sean Clifford will start his first game at quarterback in Happy Valley, and Justin Shorter should see action at the receiver position. Ricky Slade, Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford will all look to see action at running back. No matter who plays, Penn State should walk out of Beaver Stadium with a win against Idaho, a team that barely competes in the FCS.
Ball State vs. Indiana
Michael Penix Jr. is going to take over at quarterback this season for the Hoosiers, which is an interesting switch from last year. Peyton Ramsey played pretty well for Indiana in 2018, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, leading the team to a 5-7 record. Ball State finished last season at 4-8 in the Mid-American Conference. Indiana should fair well against an overmatched Ball State squad, and this victory will do a lot for Penix’s confidence.
South Alabama at Nebraska
Another easy victory for the Big Ten in Week 1 is going to come from this matchup. South Alabama is going to get outmuscled at the line of scrimmage all day. Plus, this is year two of the Scott Frost-Taylor Martinez combo, which could take the Big Ten West crown by the time the regular season is wrapped up. There is a lot of hype surrounding the team from Lincoln this year.
Akron at Illinois
The Zips ranked near the very bottom of the nation in total offense last season and were, at best, a middling team on defense against sub-par in-conference competition. The Fighting Illini, coached by Lovie Smith, will be able to overmatch Akron on both sides of the ball. Expect some early struggles from the quarterback position, with Brandon Peters or Cam Miller, for Illinois. The defense will need to be huge in the first half, but the offense should start clicking once it gets comfortable.
Florida Atlantic at Ohio State
Ryan Day and Justin Fields are both debuting for the Buckeyes, but this one is going to be a cakewalk for the defending Big Ten champions. They open up as 28-point favorites, but they should easily cover the spread against the Owls on Saturday. Ohio State is going to do what Ohio State does best: reload at every position and dominate the football game with excellent coaching and outstanding talent at all levels.
Howard at Maryland
The Terps possibly have the easiest matchup out of all the Big Ten teams in Week 1. The Howard Bison went 4-6 last season in the FCS and should not pose a threat to Maryland coming out of the gate. If Maryland struggles against this opponent, then it has major issues this season. Josh Jackson, Maryland’s starting quarterback, has previous game experience and should absolutely cook against Howard.
Tulsa at Michigan State
The Spartans were the best team in the nation against the run last season. They also return the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball and are coached by one of the premier head coaches in the country. All of this does not bode well for Tulsa, a team that was ranked 110th in passing and 35th in rushing last season on offense. It is going to be hard for Tulsa to move the ball against MSU all day. Couple that with a fully health Brian Lewerke and this bad situation keeps getting worse for Tulsa. Expect a blood bath.
Wisconsin at South Florida
A surprising road trip for a Big Ten team to open up the season, Wisconsin makes the trip down to South Florida to take on the Bulls. Charlie Strong should have his boys pumped and ready for their home opener, but he does not have access to Jonathan Taylor, one of the best running backs in the nation. Wisconsin’s lead back rushed for 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and will continue to eat against South Florida, which ranked eighth from last in 2018 in rushing yards against. Wisconsin is favored by 13, and if Jack Coan, the starting signal caller for Wisconsin, limits mistakes, then the Badgers should definitely cover.
UMass at Rutgers
Rutgers is actually favored to win a game this season, believe it or not. UMass is not a good football team, but neither is Rutgers. Rutgers finished last season 1-11, and UMass finished 4-8. McLane Carter, a Texas Tech transfer, is taking over the quarterback position for Rutgers this season. That should be a nice breath of fresh air for the Scarlet Knights, who were absolutely abysmal on offense last season. This one is not going to be pretty regardless who is slinging the pigskin.
Purdue at Nevada
Road openers are tough for any team, and Purdue is walking into a potential trap against the Wolf Pack. In 2018, Nevada ranked in the top quarter of the nation in offense and in the top half in defense. This should be a pretty good football team coming out of the Mountain West this year, and Purdue may still be feeling the lumps and bruises from the Auburn beatdown in their bowl game last season. This is going to be a close one in Nevada for sure. Buckle your seatbelts, kids, because both these teams can score 35 plus in a heartbeat.
Middle Tennessee at Michigan
Shea Patterson and Jim Harbaugh run it back in Ann Arbor for at least one more season, and many folks are taking Michigan to win the whole Big Ten this season. Again, Michigan was ravaged on defense by the draft, but Harbaugh always seems to find talent and fill the gaps left by NFL teams in late April. The over for this game is 55, and Michigan is favored by five touchdowns. Does anyone expect Middle Tennessee to put up 20 points on Saturday against the Wolverines? Michigan is going to walk away with a massive victory in the Big House in Week 1.
Miami (Ohio) vs. Iowa
Long gone are the days of Big Ben Roethlisberger tossing dimes along the RedHawks sidelines. Iowa opens up the season ranked in the top 20 and will prove to be the best team with a bird as a mascot on Saturday. Miami has not beaten a Big Ten opponent in the last 13 tries. This one is not going to be pretty. Iowa’s defensive line is going to have an absolute field day.
Northwestern at Stanford
This is going to be the best Big Ten football game played this week. These are two teams that like to play a pro-style offense and have a lot to prove coming into the season. Northwestern was one game away from winning the Big Ten last season and had a really nice season under stellar head coach Pat Fitzgerald. They have a quarterback battle heading into this game with long-time backup TJ Green competing with former five-star Clemson recruit Hunter Johnson. Expect Johnson to walk out of this game as the starter. He has the better arm and is able to make plays with his feet. K.J. Costello is returning for Stanford and is a dark horse candidate for the Heisman. This should be a fun one in Santa Clara.
Logan Dolby is a senior studying broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.